This week sees the second instalment in our protracted Video Game Vault series.
Last time we looked at the cult classic Cacapa the Rappa a pioneer of the ‘tap buttons to pretend you’re making music’ genre of games. We continue with Grand Theft Couto; lauded for its open world environment, depth, characterisation and liberal usage of hair products. It was described on its release by Dominik Diamond as “more satisfying than tricking Patrick Moore into doing Gamesmaster”.
Grand Theft Couto‘s plot revolves around the central character Fernando – an ageing centre-back with international pedigree – whose place in the Portuguese national side is suddenly under threat. Sent home from the training camp by Big Phil Scolari [voiced by Gene Hackman], Couto’s car comes under fire and he barely escapes. From here on Fernando must work his way back into the Portuguese squad, deal with Big Phil and find out who is trying to kill him. A succession of characters are introduced as Fernando infiltrates Figo’s biker gang and works protection for the international playboy Rui Costa.
One of the added attractions for gamers was the numerous side missions you could complete, earning cash which you could spend on upgrading the players appearance with ever increasingly fancy boots. These included delivering nandrolone for Able Xavier and a delightful task where Maniche instructs you to kill any small dog that kind of looks like him. No-one has ever completed this task.
The controls were famously slow and unresponsive, with Couto ambling about the screen. Despite the resulting criticism developers insisted that the character movement was true to life. There were also problems with the snap targeting system, which would require the player to snap their controller in half before Fernando got anything remotely on target.
Grand Theft Couto represented something of a breakthrough in ‘sandbox’ play, but despite critical acclaim sales were initially slower than Fernando chasing down an opposition striker as he bears down on goal. While running in sand. That said, it did acquire a degree of tabloid controversy after a mother claimed that the game was the reason that her son had started dressing like Fernando Couto, something which would ultimately cause his death in an attempted break-in at a hair gel factory. Grand Theft Couto also spawned several spin-off games including the wildly popular Canis Canem Cadete and Red Dead Redondo (review coming soon).